Archive for the ‘top ten lists’ Category

Religion and the Olympus E-P1 Digital Pen

August 8, 2009 9 comments

Click HERE for todays photos.

The recent solar eclipse was quite the sight to see here in Japan.  It was cloudy near Tokyo during the event, but thank to the power of the internet I was able to view it live via streaming video.   It did get spooky-dark during the eclipse, and it made me wonder about what people used to think way back in history when things like that would happen.

Were they scared?  Excited?  Did they care?

I have no idea, but what I do know for sure is that many thousands of years ago people were really about the same as people today.  They just lacked the scientific level of knowledge to help explain all of those inexplicable things that they experienced in their daily lives.  The rise and fall of the tides, solar (and lunar) eclipses, the changing of the seasons, and why Wayne Newton was such a popular entertainer.  Yes, the list of things not explainable was long, and varied.

And as people generally like to understand their world (or at least feel like they understand it) a group of enterprising individuals came up with a solution.


All of a sudden there was a cause and a reason for everything.  Nothing was random, and everything happened according t some grand plan.  But these people who created the gods and such had ulterior motives.  Yes, they did hand the general public an explination for all of the worlds unknowns, but they also used it as a manner to control those same people.

And they did it in a very interesting manner…

By making people feel important.

We were no longer insiginificant.  By George, we had an all knowing , all seeing individual (or group, depending on the local gospel) that took a vested interest in every little thing we do.

We mattered.  We were important.

The only catch was you had to be careful no to stray from the “rules”, otherwise instead of things being wonderful, you were slated to endure an eternal procession of misery and pain (like attending a Wayne Newton concert) .

Pretty clever actually.  Tell somebody that the reason behind everything is “X”.  With “X” being whatever religion developed in each region of the world.  People feel satisfied that they now “understand” things, and life can continue on, just so long as you continue to “believe” in something that nobody can prove.  (And they call those that believe in extra terrestrial life/intelligence nuts…)

I do have to give the Pope credit though.  He did state his believe that intelligent life on other panets is a possibility, even if he did add a disclaimer to the statement by saying that it will all have been part of Gods plan.

Personally I would like to think that there is intelligent life in the Universe, but before I have proof  cannot believe it as fact.  But I do sincerely hope that there is something else out there, becasue if that were true then there would be at least one intelligent planet in this vast cosmos.

But here we are in the 21’st(!) century, all smug in the satisfaction that we “understand”, that we somehow know better than those ignorant boobs from the past.  But I would argue that we are, in general,  are even more naive than our ancestors.   In our predecessors defense, they did not have the scientific method to help explain things to them, so they had no choice but to accept the only explination being offerd.

But we have started (and just barely started, there is so much more to learn) down the path of science, and have been able to explain so many of those past mysteries, using the scientific method, that we now know that many (if not all) of our prior “beliefs” were flat out wrong.

For example: Without a shadow of a doubt, we all now understand why solar eclipses happen.  We also understand why the seasons change, and why Wayne Newton is so painful to listen to (he is the Anti-Christ).

But so many of us still choose to be blinded by religion, and fail to accept the fact that we don’t matter.  The only rules are those that we and the society we live in place on us.  This is why things that seem so abhorent to some (like killing a girl that was raped  in order to save the “honor” of the family) are accepted as normal in other cultures.  But even then, many of these cultural differences are the result of divergent religous paths conflicting on basic ideological levels.

I can understand the siren song of religion, I just don’t buy it.   It would be nice to be able to accept a simplified explination for things, to feel important, and to be given some level of comfort that when my time on this earth is done it will not really be the end for me.

I hope you are not thinking that I am diametrically opposed to religion, as this is not the case.  Most religions have a very positive message, and if parts of this message are followed, the result can be a more harmonious existance.    It’s just that I for one have not yet bought the explinations for things that religion provides.

There are a few things that, if religion were able to explain them, I may become a believer.  Here is my top-ten list:

1. why are the wicked not punished in the here and now instead of some afterlife where nobody really knows if it happens or not?

2. Why do bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people?  Isn’t there supposed to be some kind of justice if there is an all powerful being orchestrating this silly show?

3. Why do so many people chose Adjustable Rate Mortgages?

4. Why is it that is you don’t believe in the same invisible person as me, you are “wrong”?  Isn’t religion supposed to be all about tolerance?

5. Where does that other sock go when you put it in the dryer?

6.Why doesn’t The Vattican publicly release ALL of the gospels?

7. Why is Wayne Newton so popular?  (See question 1: Maybe we are ALL already in hell)

8. How do Jehovahs Whitnesses ALWAYS know when I am at home?  (Even here in Japan!)

9. Why do whales and snakes have vestigial leg bones?

10. Why are top-ten lists so polular?


In other, less contoversial, news:  I recently bought an Olumpus E-P1.  It’s a micro 4/3rds mount camera, and as far as I can tell so far, goin got be a HUGE hit for olympus.

Click HERE for todays photos, all of them were taken with the E-P1 in 6×6 mode with the “pin hole” art filter.  Other than converting from Raw to jpeg, no post-processing work was done on my part, these are straight out of the camera.

The kit lenses (14-42mm, and 35mm f2.8 pancake) are great, but what makes this camera really exciting is the fact that it accepts darn near any other type of lens.  This is possible because the register distance, from the lens mount to the sensor plane is very short, thus you can use an adapter ring of the appropriate thickness to make up the difference for other makers lenses.

I’ve been shooting with it for about two weeks now, and while it is not perfect, it is one solid piece of equipment.  The only real gripe I have is the fact that there is a 2x crop factor on all lenses used, so finding a nice fgast normal or wide anle lens is a challenge.  My wonder normal zuiko 50mm f1.2 ends up “looking” like a 100mm f1.2.

It’s also got the best high-iso image quality I have seen from a 4/3rds camera.  Its good enough in fact that this has become my default street shoting camera, and my beloved Leica M8 will soon be hitting the auction block.  I like the M8, but I can’t justify keeping such an expensive camera if I won’t be using it.

Here is a quick list of the Pro’s and Con’s of the E-P1 after my brief experience with it:


  • Very compact build, yet still very solid
  • Great high ISO image quality
  • Very compact 17mm f2.8 pancake lens (35mm equivelant) , but I am really waiting for the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 pancake
  • Kit zoom lens is tack sharp, and has a cool collapsing design to make it much smaller when closed
  • Built-in art filters and aspect ratios are fun
  • Nice array of external controls, easy to adjust exposure on the fly
  • I can use many different makes/types of  lenses on it


  • 2X crop factor (ouch!)
  • no built-in flash or viewfinder
  • low frame rate when using some of the art filters (especially my favorite, the pin hole)
  • auto-focus could be faster

So while it’s not perfect, it’s certainly close enough to make me a very happy shooter.   All cameras are a compromise between cost, size, weight, speed, etc…

With the E-P1, Olympus seems to have boiled that conflicting equation down to a very pallatable mix.


Crime and Punishment

December 9, 2008 5 comments

Click HERE for todays photos


The Japanese police are finally starting to crack down on those that use their cellphones while riding their bicycles in Japan.  The fine for such an offense is a cool 50,000 Yen (about $500 US). Up till now most have gotten away with just a warning from the boys in blue, but not anymore.  

This is the manner that most changes to the law are made; there is an initial phase where the actual penalties are not assesed and cops just hand out warnings.  But now it seems Osaka is getting tough on this issue and are  starting to hand out actual tickets.

I have no problem with this, having been the near victim of these pedaling yackers more than once while on the sidewalks of Japan, most of the times as a pedestrian and not a driver. 

But to really make a difference I would like there to be some additional categories of finable offenses to cut down on the number of “incoveniences” that one encounters during daily life in Japan.  

So here is my list (in no discernable order) of what what behavior (or misbehavior) should be tagged with a fine:

  1. NOT giving up your seat on the train to an elderly, pregnant, or otherwise more needy person: 49,650 Yen.  (Please note: all bets are off during rush hour on the Yamanote line, it’s every salaryman for himself
  2. Taxi drivers pulling over and in broad daylight (or broad “neon-light”) and pissing on the road: 10,000 Yen.
  3. Cramming yourself into an obviously already overcrouwded train car: 5,000 Yen.  (Please note: this does not apply if is happens to be the last train for the night)    
  4. Falling asleep on the train and consequently lurching into the lap of the person sitting next to you: 10,000 Yen (The “victim” may decline that the fine be paid, depening on how cute to “offender” is and if he/she is able to strike up a conversation with the offender that results in at least one date)
  5. Restaurants with Smoking and Non-Smoking sections of the dining area that are separated by nothing more than the “Smoking” and “Non-Smoking” signs: 5,239,452 Yen.
  6. Girls who proceed to break out an entire makeup cabinet and doll themselves up on the train: 10,000 Yen.
  7. Salarymen (or women) who while riding the train home late one night after a round of binge drinking with co-workers pukes on the train: 170,000 Yen. (Please note: the fine doubles if it were the last train of the night, see # 3 above.  After all, as everyone knows, your supposed to puke in your own briefcase or purse)
  8. Clueless gaijin that hold a 120 decible conversation on the train with their other clueless gaijin friends whilst everyone else tries to pretend to sleep (excpet those guilty of offense # 4): 40,000 Yen.
  9. People on trains who refuse to blow their noses and be done with it, but instead continually sniffle and slowley drown in their own juices while sitting right next to you: 84,000 Yen.
  10. Standing in the same train car as me while elderly, pregnant, or otherwise more needy than me becasue you KNOW I will give up my seat to you because I am a gaijin:  350 Yen, which just so happens to be enough to buy me a beer at the next available convenience store or vending machine  🙂

Anyone else have a “finable” offense that they would like to see codified into law and then enforced?  

Please, by all means share it with the rest of us.

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